28 November 2017

Liberia: Nimba County District Eight Contestants Sent Back to NEC

Associate Justice Kabineh Ja'neh yesterday declined to place a stay order as requested by Saye S. Mianah, the announced winner of Nimba County District#8 representative seat in the October 10 legislative election, to prevent authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC) from conducting a recount of the votes.

Ja'neh, a current Chamber Justice, also mandated Mianah to go back to the NEC and exhaust all legal remedies available to him at the electoral body, which his lawyer Cooper Kruah had failed to do.

Kruah had accused the NEC of proceeding erroneously when it set aside the result of the poll for a recount of the votes; something he argued contradicted Article 83 of the 1986 Constitution, which among other things provides: "All, except for President and Vice President, elections for public offices shall be determined by a simple majority of the valid votes cast in any elections."

Mianah was among eight other representative candidates including the incumbent lawmaker, Larry Younquoi, that contested for the district's lone seat, in which he was declared the winner by a simple majority with 6,108 votes as opposed to Younquoi who obtained 6,089, making Mianah the winner by a 19-vote margin.

That result was reportedly challenged by Younquoi, who subsequently complained to the NEC, asking for a recount of the votes cast during the October 10 legislative election in the district.

The recount was conducted but NEC could not announce its result without addressing some of the concerns raised by the parties, for which a hearing was scheduled for Friday, November 24 that did not take place. NEC has up to press time not provided any reason for the delay in announcing the result.

At yesterday's hearing, a drama ensued when NEC lead lawyer Musa Dean explained that Friday's deliberation did not materialize because Cllr. Kruah requested the electoral body to suspend it.

Dean quoted Kruah as saying, "I will be attending the Annual Conference of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) in Gbarnga, Bong County"; a situation that made it difficult for him to be at the scheduled hearing last Friday.

Dean alleged that it was while waiting for a new date for the hearing that Kruah filed his request for a stay order before Justice Ja'neh.

In his argument, Kruah spoke of how the NEC was yet to decide the matter, but again said that his decision to ask for a stay order from the Supreme Court was based on fear that the electoral body might settle for a recount.

Mr. Saye S. Mianah obtained a margin of 19 votes ahead of Rep. Younquoi in the initial count following the October 10 polls

"I ran to the Supreme Court, because I thought the NEC was about to call for a re-count, and subsequently certificate the winner, which I believed would be unconstitutional, and so I wanted that exercise to stop immediately," Kruah said.

It was widely believed that the recount, which was conducted by NEC training officer Daniel Gegbeson, puts the incumbent lawmaker Younquoi in the lead with 17 votes ahead of Mianah, the first announced winner, who earlier obtained a win by a margin of 19 votes.

Mianah has since challenged the recourt result, claiming that Gegbeson was not an electoral magistrate, accusing him of conducting an "illegal recount outside of the district tally center, which contradicts the provision of the 2005 resolution."

The resolution provides that: "Wherever the difference between the two leading candidates in a representative election is below the margin of 50 votes, the commissioner shall conduct an automatic re-count of the result of the two candidates."

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